Barbara Fleek

Raven Moiety, Dry Bay Kwaan

L’uknax.adi (Coho) Clan, Xixch’ hit (Frog House)


My thesis is about Tlingit women leaders. I admire tremendously how Native people teach and lead. The method of teaching is inclusive, and is lead by consensus which recognizes the value participants bring to the group. Leaders are aware that with authority comes responsibility and influence should be used wisely and sparingly. The women in my thesis never talked about power as a tool for political gain or force. Leadership was shared work and not positional (not the same thing as authority.) Leaders spent their lives advocating and working for all Native peoples.

Leadership is talked about all the time, but can only be achieved in an environment that promotes this kind of mutual trust and acceptance of individual rights, beliefs, and responsibilities.

Respect was another important theme threading the discussions throughout the interviews by the participants. I see our society changing very quickly and civility and respect are often not valued in our busy lives.

Tlingit women in my thesis spoke about how their parents desired for them to get an education. Not knowing exactly what attending school involved, parents were not able to understand or guide their daughters through the process. This experience, unfortunately, is still applicable today. I see many of our students come to UAA because their parents or schools want them to, but they have no clear goals or an understanding.

Since I work at UAA with students it is hard to separate myself from my job. Students are my passion. I enjoy helping students put things into perspective. I know the importance of being persistent because the time it took for me to complete my degrees and the dropouts, or stop-outs on my journey through life and school.

What has helped me immensely was growing up knowing I was loved. As a young child I lived with my grandparents and remained close to them throughout my childhood. I do not remember ever hearing any harsh words from my Tlingit grandmother, just gentle laughter and soft admonishments. My aunt was the same way. I grew up possessing a strong sense of who and what I was. As a mother, I knew this was important to pass onto my daughters.

When I submitted my thesis to the library and filled out the Master's Thesis Agreement Form I was dismayed to find out that there is no listed subject category for Alaska Native or American Indian anywhere. I discovered only sparse listings of minority groups for major topics in literature and social sciences areas.

A strong commitment to recruit Alaska Native & American Indian faculty and staff members is a tremendously important goal to help offset our lack of presence in these fields. Until there are incentives for departments within the university, I don't believe too much will change. These efforts must come as a directive from the top level of the university. A practical idea is to increase and continue to support programs for role models and mentors. This would do well to retain the high population of Alaska Native and American Indian students which average about 1,000 students each semester at UAA, and would certainly assist in retention.